The police force in our country has often faced allegations of abuse. In fact, there happens to be a fundamental distrust between the citizenry and the cops. Lodha saw the need to bridge this gulf of suspicion. Literacy centres intended for poor children were part of his strategy to give the police a clearer community orientation. The move was also intended to humanise the force.
The SP also asked other police stations to invite intellectuals, doctors, academicians and youths for brainstorming sessions to sort out the problems of the locality. Today, Sambhav organises medical camps and even distributes clothes among the poor. It also holds quiz, sports, antakshari, drama and dance competitions. "The spontaneous participation in each programme surprised me," says Lodha.
The move has also enthused the force. "We’re proud that our cops are sparing two hours everyday to teach slum children," says inspector Vijay Kumar Yadav. His post is school to over 50 children. Neha Nishant, a BSc student, trained by a Delhi-based organisation, Prayas, comes to teach here. When Neha is away, a policeman dons the teacher’s mantle. Asked how the cops manage to spare time from their hectic schedule, Yadav grins disarmingly, "Our constables have plenty of time. They utilise it in teaching kids."
Parents of the children who attend the "police school" are too poor to send them to the regular ones. "We are looking for sponsors to admit these children to mainstream schools once they are ready," says Neha. A trickle of goodwill has started. The SBI, Power Grid Corporation and local traders have come forward to help. And citizens have also chipped in with books, stationery, uniforms and meals.
For now, the kids are taught textbooks prescribed for first and second standards. With good reason. Renuka, 10, had never been to school, neither had her 8-year-old brother. A few months ago, their father Prakash Yadav, a cart puller, was brought to the kotwali by a complainant. He was let off after a warning. Before releasing him, the inspector asked if he was sending his kids to school. "No," came the answer. Yadav was told to meet Sambhav activists who convinced him to send his two children to the police school. The transformation in Yadav is apparent: a man who would earlier flee on seeing cops now does rounds of the thana to enquire about his children’s progress.
The interaction with the community has undoubtedly helped in policing, says Lodha. But he does not want to take too much credit. "I didn’t expect a revolution but just wanted to change the mindset of the people and the force. I’ve not done anything, just a few small initiatives," he says.
Contact Sambhav at: c/o S.P. Nalanda, Biharsharif, Nalanda district, Bihar. e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Tel: 06112-225206/225207.